Raymond Felton

And-Ones: Gortat, Felton, Ball, Okoro

Veteran NBA center Marcin Gortat decided to retire from professional basketball last month, walking away from a league where he played for four teams across 12 years.

Gortat, 36, saw his last NBA season come during the 2018/19 campaign with the Clippers and spent much of this season contemplating his future.

“It’s sad but you know, the whole adventure and the whole ‘Polish Hammer’ thing has to end at some point,” Gortat said, according to Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports. “I’m happy that after 12 years I achieved so much being the 57th pick in the draft. Now, I’ve got the good part and I’m going to enjoy my life and enjoy the other guys watching them play on the court.”

Gortat returned to Washington and watched the Wizards play the Hawks on Friday, receiving a video tribute from the organization. He helped the franchise make the playoffs in four of his five seasons, playing physical basketball on both ends of the floor.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Free agent Raymond Felton may not be signing in the Czech Republic after all, according to Niccolo Scavuzzo of Sportando. Felton reportedly reached agreement with Jindřichův Hradec, with the team’s GM suggesting that he wouldn’t report until April in an official statement.
  • LiAngelo Ball is signing with the Oklahoma City Blue, G League affiliate of the Thunder, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Ball is continuing his pursuit of an NBA deal by way of the G League, with the 21-year-old going undrafted back in 2018.
  • In an article for ESPN Insider, Jonathon Givony and Mike Schmitz detail why Isaac Okoro might be a top-five NBA draft pick this June. Okoro, 19, is a 6-foot-6 small forward who currently plays at Auburn.

And-Ones: NBPA, Felton, Crabbe, Hunter

The National Basketball Players Association is set to begin its search for a successor to current executive director Michele Roberts, the NBPA’s executive committee announced today in a press release. Roberts, who has been the union’s executive director since 2014, won’t be seeking a contract extension beyond her current deal.

“For the past six years, I have greatly enjoyed and continue to enjoy leading the NBPA and am proud of all we have been able to accomplish,” Roberts said in a statement. “When I agreed to a second contract as Executive Director, I made clear that I would not be seeking a third. The Executive Committee and I are committed to making certain my successor is thoroughly prepared to assume the position upon my departure from the NBPA and continue its sustained path for growth.”

Roberts played a key role in the negotiations on the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NBA and the players’ union. Both sides will have the ability to opt out of the ’17 agreement after the 2022/23 season, at which time a new executive director will be leading negotiations for the NBPA’s side.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran NBA guard Raymond Felton is expected to join Jindrichuv Hradec, a team in the Czech Republic, for the end of the season, as Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays. It’s an unusual landing spot for Felton, but he has a connection to coach Gilbert Abraham, as GM Radek Novak explained in a statement.
  • Allen Crabbe has reached a plea deal in his DUI case, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports details. The veteran swingman, who is now a free agent after being bought out by the Timberwolves, should avoid the NBA suspension that would come with a drunk-driving conviction, Feldman notes.
  • After playing in Turkey earlier this season, former first-round pick R.J. Hunter has returned stateside and is a member of the Hawks‘ G League team in College Park as he seeks an NBA comeback. Zach Koons of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the story and the quotes from Hunter.

Sefolosha, Brewer, Felton, Others To Attend Rockets’ Mini-Camp

1:41pm: Mbah a Moute, in a change of plans, won’t be attending the Rockets’ mini-camp in Vegas after all, tweets Iko.

12:13pm: A handful of the most noteworthy veteran free agents on the market will take part in the Rockets‘ upcoming mini-camp in Las Vegas, according to multiple reports. In a series of tweets, Kelly Iko and Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic reported that the following players will participate in the mini-camp:

With the exception of Jones, who has spent six seasons in the NBA, all of these players have more than a decade of NBA experience under their belts, which could make them good fits for a veteran Rockets team seeking depth as it looks to make a championship run this season.

[RELATED: Iman Shumpert turns down Rockets’ contract offer]

Although there’s some positional variety among the free agents who are participating in the Rockets’ mini-camp, it appears the team’s primary focus is on wings. Brewer, Mbah a Moute, Sefolosha, and Young all fit that bill. Mbah a Moute and Sefolosha, in particular, could be nice fits in Houston if they’re healthy, given their three-and-D abilities.

None of these veterans are currently under contract with the Rockets, who are carrying 18 players on their offseason roster. However, a strong showing at this week’s mini-camp could very well result in training camp invites for one or two of these veterans. Houston could bring even more of these players to camp if the team is willing to cut any of its current players to create extra spots on the 20-man roster.

No NBA team has fewer players on fully guaranteed deals than the Rockets, so a couple of the team’s regular season roster spots figure to be up for grabs in the preseason.

Thunder Notes: Ferguson, Felton, Abrines

Despite Andre Roberson missing the entire season to this point, the Thunder have continued to thrive as Paul George has developed into a serious MVP candidate and other role players have stepped up in their respective roles. The main example of such improvement is Terrance Ferguson, who has maintained his hold on a starting role past the halfway point of the season.

As Maddie Lee details for The Oklahoman, the Thunder put the ball in Ferguson’s hands more during Summer League, which he believes has translated to his improvement and confidence so far this season.

While his statistics suffered during the Summer League experiment, Ferguson is finding open teammates more often and is playing with a confidence that has unlocked more components of his game.

There’s more for the Thunder:

Fallout From Bulls/Thunder Scrum

On Monday night, the Thunder defeated the Bulls in Oklahoma City by 25 points in a game between two teams from different conferences, one with playoff aspirations and the other in the midst of a rebuild.

However, the otherwise relatively meaningless regular season contest took an interesting turn when a scrum broke out late in the third quarter after Bulls’ guard Cameron Payne was called for a foul, followed by a shoving match between Thunder’ guard Russell Westbrook and Bulls’ guard Kris Dunn.

Chaos then broke out as Jerami Grant approached Dunn before being confronted by Robin Lopez, resulting in both Grant and Lopez falling into the lap of some fans sitting in courtside seats.

The NBA announced discipline this afternoon, with non-participants and Thunder guards Raymond Felton and Dennis Schroder both receiving one-game suspensions for leaving the bench. Meanwhile, Dunn was fined $15K for “instigating,” while Grant and Lopez were fined $20K and $25K, respectively, for “escalating.”

Fortunately for the Kings, both Felton and Schroder will miss the Thunder’s game later tonight in Sacramento.

Thunder Re-Sign Raymond Felton

JULY 12: The Thunder have officially re-signed Felton, the team announced today in a press release.

JULY 3: The Thunder have agreed to terms with Raymond Felton, who will return to Oklahoma City for the 2018/19 season, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Felton will ink a one-year, minimum salary deal, per Wojnarowski.

Felton, 34, served as Russell Westbrook‘s primary backup at the point in 2017/18, and the Thunder liked his performance enough to bring him back for another year. Felton appeared in all 82 games for OKC, averaging 6.9 PPG and 2.5 APG with a .406/.352/.818 shooting line.

Felton’s return doesn’t come as a real surprise, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, who notes (via Twitter) that the veteran point guard recently participated in a five-on-five scrimmage as if he was still on the team when the Thunder brought in some free agents for a workout.

With Felton set to receive another minimum salary contract, his new deal pushes the Thunder’s total projected bill for their 2018/19 roster above $300MM, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Oklahoma City is expected to make cost-cutting moves at some point, but for now they’re carrying about $150MM in salary and another $150MM in projected tax penalties, with new agreements for Paul George, Jerami Grant, Nerlens Noel, and Felton taken into account.

Hornets Notes: Monk, FA Targets, Coaching Staff

A disappointing 2017/18 put the Hornets in an awkward position, staffed with enough talent to compete for one of the East’s final playoff spots, yet financially compelled to blow things up and start fresh. This season stands to be different. In a recent interview with Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, newly appointed head coach James Borrego discusses his vision for the club heading forward.

The biggest change heading into 2018/19 is Borrego’s willingness to incorporate 2017 pick Malik Monk heavily in the team’s rotation. Whereas previous head coach Steve Clifford opted to play veterans over youth, Borrego sees Monk as “major player for the team” with the potential to be an elite shooter.

Borrego also notes that it’s a priority of the Hornets to add a ballhandler that can serve as the primary backup point guard to Kemba Walker.

There’s more out of Charlotte tonight:

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder are in a unique position with a unique superstar and this upcoming summer will play a major role in how that ultimately plays out. Unsurprisingly, the team’s short-term fate depends on where Paul George signs and that could very well depend on where LeBron James signs.

With a committed George, the Thunder boast one of the league’s most intriguing cores and a front office with a rich history of landing major assets. Without him, it’s not so much of a stretch to picture the club back in the lottery for the first time since 2015.

Carmelo Anthony, PF, 34 (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $124MM deal in 2014
In less than a year, Anthony went from being a coveted veteran star to a radioactive presence with an albatross contract. The 33-year-old has an early termination option for 2018/19 but isn’t about to wave goodbye to the $28MM season he’s been eyeing up since he signed for it back in 2014. Anthony will be back in Oklahoma City next season and has already said that he has no desire to come off the bench. Godspeed, Thunder fans.

Corey Brewer, SG, 32 (Up) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
The Thunder added Brewer down the stretch as a replacement for the injured Andre Roberson. The perimeter defender not only subbed in admirably for Roberson, but carved out a role in the team’s rotation heading forward should he decide to return. Brewer is coming off of a comfortable $24MM deal signed in 2015, so don’t expect him to chase the biggest offer he can find if it looks like the Thunder will be able to remain competitive. That said, the club will need to offer more than the peanuts it got him for at the tail end of 2017/18.

Nick Collison, PF, 37 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
For the past 15 years, Collison has been a part of the Thunder franchise and there’s always seemed to be a mutual respect between he and the organization. While his days as a key rotation piece are in the rearview mirror, there’s no denying that his presence in the locker room has had a positive impact on the team. The big man hasn’t made a public decision regarding retirement at this point but it may be more likely than not. If Collison does decide to play in 2018/19, expect it to be announced well into free agency after the team’s other dominoes have fallen.

Raymond Felton, PG, 34 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
Few would argue that there will be a long list of teams fighting to sign Felton this summer but it’s hard to consider his lone season in Oklahoma City anything less than a success. Felton proved that he can be an effective, cheap bit player for the Thunder, as evidenced by the 6.9 points and 2.5 assists per game he posted in just 16.6 minutes of action. Had he not performed as well as he did, there’s no guarantee he’d even land another full-time gig.

Paul George, SF, 28 (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $92MM deal in 2014
While his first season in Oklahoma City could have gone better from a team perspective, George did little to obfuscate his case for a max contract. It seems inevitable that the star will head west to the Lakers but let’s take the guy at his word if he says he’s at least interested in the notion of returning to the Thunder. The franchise would be well equipped for the next half decade if they could lock George in with Westbrook and Steven Adams, but will that be enough to sway the California native? Wherever he goes, he figures to be earning the max allowable.

Jerami Grant, PF, 24 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $4MM deal in 2014
Grant was a solid and intriguing depth piece for the Thunder this season, but may be one of the players most impacted by the team’s tight finances. The former second-round pick will see interest from other teams this summer and while OKC could go over the cap to retain him, doing so would have serious luxury tax implications.

Josh Huestis, PF, 26 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $4MM deal in 2015
Despite world-class athleticism, Huestis hasn’t firmly established himself with the Thunder in three seasons. That being said, he saw consistent action for OKC in 2017/18 in limited minutes. Given that the team will have so much of its payroll tied up in a handful of players in 2018/19 and beyond, the unrestricted free agent could have some appeal as a dirt-cheap option already familiar with the system.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Thunder Notes: Anthony, George, Collison, Donovan

Scratch the idea of Carmelo Anthony accepting a reserve role if he decides to return to the Thunder next season. The veteran forward emphatically rejected the idea during today’s exit interviews, tweets ESPN’s Royce Young.

“I’m not sacrificing no bench role,” Anthony responded when asked about the possibility. “So that’s out of the question.”

Anthony has a player option for next season worth nearly $28MM that he is considered likely to exercise because he’ll have difficulty getting that amount in free agency. After averaging a career-low 32.1 minutes in his first season in Oklahoma City and sitting for extended stretches in the playoffs, there was speculation that he might be might be transitioned into a bench role for 2018/19, but today’s comments make it clear he wouldn’t be a willing participant.

There’s more from the Thunder’s exit interviews:

  • Paul George addressed his impending free agency again today, saying that playing at home in Los Angeles won’t be the “only option” when he hits the open market (Twitter link). George is considered a lock to opt out of his $20.7MM salary for next season and has long been rumored to have a desire to join the Lakers. George had an All-Star season during his first year in OKC, but his scoring, rebounding and shooting percentage from the floor all declined from last season with the Pacers.
  • Veteran big man Nick Collison, who has been with the franchise for his entire 14-year career, said, “I think I’ve decided,” when asked about his NBA future, relays Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman (Twitter link). However, the 37-year-old added, “Today’s not the time to make any of those decisions final.”
  • Head coach Billy Donovan provided a brief answer when asked if he expects to be back with the team next season (Twitter link). “Let me say I’m excited about the organization,” he replied. “I love working with [GM] Sam [Presti], the people that are here. I haven’t given any thought to that. My total focus is how do we get better and improve.” Donovan still has two seasons remaining on the five-year contract he signed when he was hired in 2015, but the Thunder have suffered first-round playoff eliminations in the past two seasons.
  • Free agent guard Raymond Felton, who played for the veteran’s minimum this season, said he wants to return to the Thunder (Twitter link). “I don’t know what my future may hold,” the 33-year-old told reporters. “I would love to be back.”

Northwest Notes: D. Johnson, Felton, James, Millsap

Rookie center Dakari Johnson is making a case to stay in the Thunder rotation once Steven Adams returns from injury, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. The 48th pick in the 2015 draft, Johnson saw his first significant NBA playing time Friday and responded with nine points in 23 minutes in a win over the Clippers.

Johnson earned a spot on the G League All-Rookie team in 2015-16 and the All-League team last year, but hasn’t gotten a shot at the NBA until this season. His early-season play is attracting the attention of coaches and teammates. “I think going forward it’s something huge for us,” said Paul George. “When we don’t have Steven on the floor, to rely on Dakari to step in and just give Steven a break and a breather at times, I think that’s all Coach is looking for.”

There’s more news from the Northwest Division:

  • Raymond Felton‘s steadying effect on the Thunder bench has been a bright spot in a disappointing start to the season, notes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. The veteran point guard signed with Oklahoma City for the veterans’ minimum over the summer and is now on his seventh team since entering the league in 2005. “I think the glue guy to that group has really been Raymond,” OKC coach Billy Donovan said. “I think having veteran leadership back there from him at least allows me to communicate, and then he’s so good at managing the game, that regardless of the personnel that’s out there he can do a really terrific job of getting everybody where they need to be.”
  • The Timberwolves aren’t surprised by the success of Suns point guard Mike James, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Minnesota considered signing the 27-year-old before he agreed to a two-way contract with Phoenix in July.
  • Free agent addition Paul Millsap jokes that finally “knowing the plays” has led to the improvement in the Nuggets’ offense, relays Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. Millsap, who signed with Denver in July after four years in Atlanta, rates his current comfort level with the team’s approach at seven out of 10. “It’s a relief,” he said. “Your mind’s not all over the place. You’re not guessing or thinking. It’s second nature. You get out there and just play basketball. I dreamed of getting to this place, where I can just get out there and just play. I’m pretty much there.”